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When to be polite

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When to be polite

Postby jboix2000 » Thu 09.06.2007 10:59 am

I kinda don't understand the difference between when you should use more polite phrases and when you don't have too. I'm thinking if you don't know them well then you use polite language and when you do know them well (such as first name bases) you don't have to use polite language. I am not sure but is that right?
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RE: When to be polite

Postby HeyItsMatt » Thu 09.06.2007 11:11 am

jboix2000 wrote:
I kinda don't understand the difference between when you should use more polite phrases and when you don't have too. I'm thinking if you don't know them well then you use polite language and when you do know them well (such as first name bases) you don't have to use polite language. I am not sure but is that right?


From what I've seen, jboix, I don't think that's a question that can be easily answered. Polite language and informal language are used based on different things, like social situation, familiarity with your speaker, social position, etc. You might use one level of politeness with your boss (obviously more polite), another with a coworker, another with a friend (more informal), another with children, another with strangers you don't know, and still another if you enjoy goading people into beating you up.

The "when in doubt, use formal language" maxim is a good idea, I think. Perhaps someone better at Japanese than me could give you a bit more detail though.
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RE: When to be polite

Postby two_heads_talking » Thu 09.06.2007 2:21 pm

HeyItsMatt has it correct, when in doubt, use formal language. There are cases where even if you are on a first name basis, you would still use formal (polite) speech. such at work place and even school. But even then, there are cases where nonformal (impolite) speech is appropriate as well.

With children, you can pretty much get away with using nonformal speech, unless there is a ceremony going on. It's a bit of a give and take condition sometimes.

personally, I always waited for my counterpart to use a lower form of speech before I ever tried to use it. And even then I would usually wait until they asked my why I was still utlizing keigo or other formal speech. Better to be safe than sorry in my opinion.

In the military, speech is dictated by rank. There is no exception. you speak keigo to your senior ranking individuals and non-formal to your subordinates. Pretty straight forward there.
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RE: When to be polite

Postby Harisenbon » Thu 09.06.2007 7:45 pm

Also something to keep in mind is that Japanese is not divided merely into "polite" or "non-polite" speach patterns. There are numerous different levels of politeness in Japanese, so it's not a matter of choosing between two choices, but rather a whole gamut of speech patterns, as well as the option of mixing them to convey the flavor of what you are saying.

But that's probably a bit above what you're asking. ;) The safe thing is just to be "normally" polite, and rank up to keigo when you talk to someone who is obviously more important than you.

Also keep in mind that because you're a foreigner, you get a lot of leeway. A polite personality will take you a lot further than a crapy personality with keigo.
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RE: When to be polite

Postby Shirasagi » Fri 09.07.2007 6:41 am

Basically, pay attention around you. Just as in any language, the spectrum of polite-casual, formal-casual is largely a matter of feel. There are really no hard and fast rules to guide you. You have to become a student of human nature, observing not just how people treat you, but how they treat other people. Eventually you'll get an idea not just when to use what, but what kind of image you project when use different levels.

Some things to consider. You can be extremely gentle and polite using direct, casual style Japanese. You can also really give someone an earful using distal, polite speech.
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